Tuesday, 20 August 2013

"There Is No-BUDDY Like A Sister."

Though the memories may fade away with passing time but the love we share will only grow.

"There Is No-BUDDY Like A Sister."
I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my god, but my god eluded me. I sought my sister and I found all three. 

There have been times in my life when I witnessed big fluctuations in my personal as well as professional life. These were the times when I found myself at my lowest. It seemed harder to bounce back. Disappointment, dissatisfaction and depression were perhaps at their peak. Life seemed suicidal with no silver lining being in sight. That was the time when I recognized the true colours of my 'so-called' best buddies. And in such difficult moments, my sister was one of those supporters who stood by my side and backed me up. She tried her best to get me back on track. She encouraged me, she motivated me, she made me realize my true worth and showed me the blessings around me. She gave me a brand new view of my life. Though it seemed a bit blurred yet it made me feel hopeful about my future. She did every possible thing in this world to bring some shine on my face and a smile on my lips. I started believing that life was not that darker and I could still fill some colours on my empty canvas. I started noticing the brighter side of everything and never looked back since then. 

Somebody has rightly said, "I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my god, but my god eluded me. I sought my sister and I found all three." As a matter of fact, you have almost always managed to come between me and worst of my life, and saved my day. And today is the perfect day to pay my heart-felt thanks to a gallant warrior, sometimes a strict teacher and a perfect superhero. Though the memories may fade away with passing time but the love we share will only grow. This Raksha Bandhan, I see you in a new light. Here is the 'labour of love' right from the core of my heart, a small creation dedicated to you Dear Priya Mishra,

"The day you were born, I still remember,
How glad I was to see that very special gift: a sister;
To have the first glance of your little fairy face,
I was just short of words and so speechless;
Being by your bedside, I was awestruck for many days,
And used to rush away from school just to have that cute gaze;
You used to sleep soundly in Dadi’s lap,
And looked like an angel in your sweet nap;
Little did I know you would be my ‘Best Buddy’,
and in every thick and thin, you will accompany me;
I played so many roles as a guard, as a driver J
‘Your wish-my command-the highness-wherever-whenever’;

Then days passed by and like a flash time flew,
From a splendid bud to a wonderful flower you grew;
You matured into the most beautiful human being,
Mumma’s delight, Brothers’ pride and Papa’s everything;
With all the girl-graciousness and lady-dignity,
You faced life with sheer strength and absolute ability;

Today is the day to say, “Bravo! Well Done Little Soldier!”
May all your dreams come true and wish you smiles forever;
Now a new journey is waiting ahead, a new path is to tread,
I’m sure you will win hearts with brand new colours you will add;
You will do your very best and will be wise,
Don’t you know, “You’re the shine of our eyes?!!” 

 A 'Labour of Love' right from the Core of my Heart

With Loads of love and ‘Bahut Sari’ blessings
Gaurav Bhai

Sunday, 11 August 2013

SOFT SKILLS: Do You Have It In You ?!!

SOFT SKILLS: Do You Have It In You ?!!
Do you know what makes a job applicant an ideal candidate. Of course, top candidates need to have the requisite qualification and relevant work experience, but it’s their soft skills that make them a perfect choice for the recruiters. If you don't believe it, this blog is exclusively for you. Read On !  

“The obsession with degrees has to stop. The lure of a degree at any cost - irrespective of whether its possession would lead to jobs and increase employability - needs to be replaced by the mindset of acquiring a set of skills that would enable the person to find jobs or be gainfully self employed.”

~ National Skill Development Corporation
Well Said NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation) ! So I believe it would be pretty clear in our heads as of now, why I distanced myself from Mr. Minister’s remark on English (read my previous blog ENGLISH VINGLSIH, ENGLISH VINGLISH II). After going through all the data crunching along with hard core facts and figures on ‘English Is A Must’, It’s time to move ahead on our ‘Communication & Soft Skills’ path. Now one may wonder why I chose to use two different terms (i) Communication (ii) Soft Skills.  Yes, It’s true that communication is itself a soft skill i.e. language skill. OK. I make that clear. This is on purpose. This is with the point to put some extra emphasis on ‘communication’ part. While the other soft skills (e.g. Leadership and Team Building, Confidence, Attitude et al) do hold their own importance, but Communication tops them all. You don’t believe that?!! Fine, have a look at the Top Ten Qualities, a Recruiter/ Selector/ Employer/ Organisation/ HR manager looks for in each and every prospective candidate. Here it goes,
Do you notice where your technical knowledge stands in the list? 
 Typically this is what makes an ideal job candidate. Of course, top candidates need to have the requisite qualification and relevant work experience, but it’s their soft skills that make them perfect. In terms of the skills that differentiate candidates, employers responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2013 say they want good communicators who can make decisions and solve problems while working effectively as part of a team. As per Elizabeth Gajendran, principal of London School of Speech, “Some of these employees with degrees from IITs/IIMs come on their own volition to polish their English speaking skills. This is after they undergo the in-house soft skills programmes at their companies." Keeping the employability of Indian students in mind, Terry Endsor, Head HR, Asia Pacific City, asserts, “India is one of the few countries where many companies come to recruit due to education level, English-speaking ability, drive and motivation. I find that Indians are highly educated…. Where they need to improve is in some of the soft skills.
I find that Indians are highly educated…. Where they need to improve is in some of the soft skills.
While Nitin Paranjpe, CEO, HUL does opine almost the same when he says, “Focus on building yourself. Develop your deep skills, functional expertise and domain knowledge. You cannot be shallow in the space you work in and aspire to senior leadership. At all times, do what you are required to do to the best of your ability. Soft Skills are valuable. Don’t under-invest in building soft skills. People assume knowing theories or models, or having better analytical capabilities, are things to get ahead. These are important, but they’re not all. Soft skills, understanding how to work with people and empathy are all very important qualities to get ahead." And another corporate heavyweight Charles Champion, Executive Vice President (Engineering), Airbus; also accentuates the same concern, “I don’t know everything, you don’t know everything in our jobs, so how can we succeed and help deliver to the target is by working as a team, by understanding who can support me, who has the knowledge by putting together various angles, diversities, various methods and knowledge. With innovations, one of the biggest challenges today is working as a team in a diverse atmosphere. One must go beyond the idea and think how one can make that happen. We encourage students to learn how to communicate, sell, explain and convince people about a particular innovation. No doubt, team spirit and ability to express matter a lot.”
Soft Skills are valuable. Don’t under-invest in building soft skills.
Yes, I did my own share of research on the subject and this effort led me to discover an interesting piece of S.W.A.T. Analysis of our would-be-employed-Indian youth. Here is the same piece of jigsaw-puzzle I made with my research.    

STRENGTH: "In terms of statistics, I guess the people coming from tier 2 or tier 3 colleges are likely to stay longer. But certainly there would be some skill gaps. But I don't think it is so much that we cannot bridge it."

~ Ramesh Ranjan, VP - HR Operations, SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC INDIA

WEAKNESS: "The challenge is how one develops one’s (students') soft skills, specially the communication part.  And I'm sure that even in other IT jobs too, communication is a key criterion. And you will find that for students coming from tier 2 and tier 3 cities communication is a huge challenge. Not every company can invest huge sums of money or time to train students in this aspect."

~ James Job, VP - Talent Acquisition, ADITYA BIRLA MINACS

Opportunity: "When we hire, say from the IIMs for our B-School Program, we have noticed that attrition rates are very high, because the aspirations these graduates have from an organisation, are totally different. These graduates are more focused on posh jobs and don't really want to get their hands dirty on the field."

~ Linda Ravindran, Head - Talent Acquisition, NOKIA

THREAT: "The biggest challenge for us is the knowledge versus the marks aspect. You go to campuses, you look at their marks, and it doesn't reflect in anyway what they know. Scores and knowledge are two different things. This is happening because students in India do not do enough stuff outside of attending class."

~ Aparna Ballakur, Chief People Officer, FLIPCART.COM

The challenge is how one develops one’s (students') soft skills, specially the communication part.
Even an answer by Pervin Malhotra to some career query clearly depicts the importance of soft skills, “Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of GE, once advised MIT grads, ‘Don’t just learn. Do network with as many people as possible.’ Indian B-schools and Technical Institutes have followed this advice by incorporating soft skills in their curriculum. In addition to business textbooks and case studies, the emphasis is now on enhancing the student’s communication skills, creativity, diplomacy, flexibility, leadership, team building and listening skills. This is also done through structured group activities. Most institutions offer compulsory courses like PDP, Career Skills, Organisational Behaviour, which cover a range of issues at the individual, interpersonal and organisational levels. At the same time, they also offer electives like managerial counselling, interpersonal skills, etc.”
“We are hired for our technical skills, but fired for the lack of soft skills.”
As a matter of fact, Soft Skills in today's world hold utmost importance. And finally, I would wind up this blog post on Soft Skills by quoting Shiv Khera, Founder of QUALIFIED LEARNING SYSTEMS INC. USA and a renowned motivational speaker,

“We are hired for our technical skills, but fired for the lack of soft skills.”

[...And yes, here also, we are talking about Communication and Soft Skills both; if any confusion or doubt, do read the blog again.]

Thursday, 8 August 2013


I dare say that no degree or diploma or any qualification in the world guarantees a good job or a good package until and unless one develops the right set of skills in oneself. And being unmindful of developing these skills, one remains eligible only but not necessarily employable.

Continuing the same theme I discussed in the last blog post ‘ENGLISH VINGLISH’, now it’s time for some more reality check. Yes, I do know that we are on track of ‘Communication and Soft Skills.’ But before I start, I would like to talk about two specific terms; ‘Eligibility’ and ‘Employability’. As per my own professional as well as personal experiences, I dare say that no degree or diploma or any qualification in the world guarantees a good job or a good package until and unless one develops the right set of skills in oneself. Even for the past few years, If you observe the marketing and promotional gimmicks of professional institutions in India a bit closely, you will notice that many of them who were at one point in time, were boasting of 100% ‘Placement Assurance’ to attract the attention of their prospective clients (read students and their investor parents), they too felt the heat soon and quietly replaced this term with 100% ‘Placement Assistance’. No wonder, now they were/ are not to blame for not being able to place their students in some good companies. But here, I would like to add on one more remark, that colleges must not be perceived as placement agencies. I believe an educational institution must project themselves as an abode of knowledge, a training-house of skills and a centre of attitude building. And the rest is up to the students.

Now Back to business! Yes, we were discussing ‘Eligibility’ and ‘Employability’ issue of our Indian youth. Looking at the current ‘Industry readiness’ of our students pursuing their professional courses, needless to say that most of them are not well equipped with those KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Attitude) which make them Job-Fit or Culture-Fit. Yes, they are lagging far behind and this is something of serious concern. In a paper titled ‘B-Schools and engineering colleges shut down — big business struggles’, the Associate Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has revealed that merely 10% of graduates from business schools [aside from the top 20 business schools like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)] manage to get hired by the corporate India on an average every year. In the last five years, the number of MBA seats annually in India has tripled from 4,500 to as many as 3.6 lakh but campus recruitments have gone down by 40% in the same period. The bad news continues with the study estimating that 180 schools had shut down in 2012 in major cities like Delhi and the NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata while another 160 struggled for survival. Only 10% of the students graduating from these colleges were found employable.

Now talking about engineering as a professional course in particular, statistics say that Engineering and Technology Graduates made up 7% of India's 5,090,799 - strong fresh talent pool in 2012. This stream is expected to grow at a compounded growth rate of 6% as against 4.1% in the case of medicine. A latest survey reports, "Just 3% Engineers are Job-Ready."  The highlights of the survey sums up, "(i) The percentage of ready-to-deploy engineers for IT jobs is dismally low at 2.68 per cent. Only 17.45 per cent of them are employable for the IT services sector. (ii) Concentrating on increasing quantity of engineers has impacted quality drastically. (iii) Potential of these skills – About 30 million job vacancies for skilled force is available at any point of time all round the year. As a recruiter myself, what I have observed during my tenure with IT industry is that candidates with English skills above the local average stand out from the crowd. Studies show that they garner 30-50 per cent higher salaries than similarly-qualified candidates without English skills. With English fluency being one of the key qualities, recruiters look for during the interview process. 

"Just 3% Engineers are Job-Ready."
A report based on a test conducted on 55,000 students from around 250 engineering colleges in India on the English learning levels of engineering graduates, Minds Computer Adaptive Test (AMCAT) finds some shocking results. (i) More than 25% engineers don’t possess English comprehension skills required to understand engineering school curriculum. (ii) Only 57% engineers can write grammatically correct sentences in English Less than 48% engineers understand moderately sophisticated words of English. (iii) More than half of all engineers (52%) would not be fluent in a majority of words that are used with regular frequency at the workplace. (iv) Around 50% engineers possess grammar skills that are not better than a Class VII student. (v) Further, it said 36 per cent of engineering graduates would be unable to read official reports and transcripts and derive information out of these, even when the information is explicitly stated. And the list goes on…
Candidates are technically good but many of them lack knowledge of English.
A remarkable research paper titled ‘Lost In Translation’ clearly brings into the open the eligibility vs. employability issue of an Indian IT professional. The paper explains, “English-speaking tech talent is limited. Today, the industry is rapidly expanding its employment base, and there is no option but to look at the available talent pool, where employability is the biggest issue. So, vast numbers of those joining the IT workforce now are from tier II and III towns, and though they are technically good, many of them lack knowledge of English, and they lack what’s called soft skills—etiquette, proper conduct in different settings. For an international business like IT, this is a huge challenge. If the employability was about 60% among urban applicants, it is a mere 10% among those who come from smaller towns around the country. These candidates have good academic records, possess sound technical knowledge but unluckily their English speaking skills are not good enough. Companies see clarity in communication as being critical at the workplace for individuals and teams to function seamlessly. Candidates may look great on paper, and that’s it. To deal with the issue, IT companies too have increased the time spent on training on soft skills and communication from 10% to 30%.”

For India, the difficulty level for 
organisations to fill up the jobs is 48%.
A 2011 paper published by three researchers with the World Bank and the Florida and Connecticut universities suggests that the ability to communicate in English is a must to be eligible for better pay packets. The research paper titled “The returns to English-language skills in India” says that hourly wages are on an average 34% higher for men who speak fluent English and 13% higher for men who speak a little English relative to men who do not speak English at all. Another report prepared by iValue Consulting for the British High Commission projects the market for English language training (ELT) to nearly double to $4.65 billion in 2015 from $2.75 billion in 2012. According to the report, the vocational training segment has the most potential, as the government works towards its goal of training 500 million people by 2022. Considering the seriousness of skill deficiency, skill development has become one of the priority agendas of the government for the Twelfth Five Year Plan. The government has doubled the allocation of funds for skill development under the National Skill Development Fund by Rs.10 billion in the Union Budget 2012-13. Ficci Ernst and Young published a paper on ‘Knowledge paper on skill development in India,’ which says, “For India, the difficulty level for organisations to fill up the jobs is 48%, which is above the global standard of 34% in 2012.”

English is Important at least for those who pursue professional
courses and aspire to achieve greater heights in their career.
After all is said and done, there is no doubt about the fact that English is Important at least for those who pursue professional courses and aspire to achieve greater heights in their career. And it all comes down to becoming proficient at ‘Communication and Soft Skills’. And being unmindful of developing these skills, one remains eligible only but not necessarily employable. It’s certainly a ‘make or break’ situation. As English author Chetan Bhagat had also said, "We need to change our thinking and our attitude to  English. We have to embrace English like never before. Not England, but English. …really taking it to the grassroot level. English and Hindi can co-exist. Hindi is the mother and English is the wife. It is possible to love them both. And we must not confuse patriotism with the skills one needs to compete in the real world. I can teach a villager geometry and physics in Hindi, but frankly when he goes to look for a job he is going to find that education useless. English will get him a job. There is massive demand for something that will improve people’s lives. I have no special soft spot for this language, but the fact is it works in the world of today. And if more English helps spread prosperity evenly across the country, trust me we will preserve our culture a lot better than a nation that can barely feed its people.

...and I hope Mr. Minister certainly gets his due reply. Right ?!!

[In my next blog post, get to know the role of 'Soft Skills' in one's professional life. Don't Miss It !] 

Saturday, 3 August 2013


English represents, for most Indians, the language of opportunity.
Anybody who thinks that the growth of English has been a bane for India is seriously out of touch with reality. Let's see WHY and let's know HOW?!

I admit that I’m a die-hard newspaper-reader who enthusiastically waits for the newspaper vendor as a ritual every single day. Sometimes the same newspaper vendor does win my respect to be on time (which he occasionally does) and reminds me of Hindu mythological god ‘Narad Muni’ (the most travelled sage and the first journalist on Earth being able to visit distant worlds with the knowledge of all the news around the universe). I do feel ecstatic to grab my fresh copy of the newspaper from the bunch he carries. As a loyal learner who delightfully looks at the cover page of every new book he/ she gets in each new class, I too feel glad to have a heartfelt reading of the main news headlines for the day.

The other day, when I was having a quick glance of the major news headlines, I chanced upon a national daily with the headline of some hotshot politician of blaming English Language as one of the reasons for degradation of the national glory. Mr. Minister proclaims that English has caused a great loss to India by eroding its cultural values. He says that English has hurt India and we have started forgetting our religion and culture these days. Anglicization of youth is dangerous. Well, personally speaking I really do not subscribe to this deliberation and prefer staying away from it as much as I can... Here, I do agree to disagree. And there are a number of valid reasons behind the stand I've taken. And one of the reasons, I hugely believe in, has already been conveyed by the same National Daily, “Anybody who thinks that the growth of English has been a bane for India is seriously out of touch with reality. In the era of globalization, it is one of the critical advantages India has vis-a-vis countries like China. Indeed, China has itself recognized this and is seeking to catch up in a hurry. In any case, to blame one language or culture for the sorry state of another language is to miss the point. There is no contradiction between the growth of English and the thriving of native cultures. English represents, for most Indians, the language of opportunity, while their mother tongues are often the language of expression. English should be seen as cause for celebration rather than mourning.”
In a globalised and intricately connected world, English is inevitable.
And then the very next day, I came across this ‘simple-commonsense-piece-of-writing’ by another like minded reader as part of the esteemed editorial of the same national daily. And I believe he talks a lot of sense, “In a globalised and intricately connected world, English is inevitable. From Europe to China, non-English-speaking people are racing to gain competency in English. What unites the modern workplace across north, south, east and west India is the English language. Whether in higher education or opportunities in the workplace, there is a definite disadvantage to not knowing English. Today, even small towns and villages are clamouring for schools in the English medium. How real is the claim that English threatens indigenous languages? Bilingualism and multilingualism come naturally to Indians simply because our environment is multilingual. Apart from the practical benefits of knowing multiple languages, research is increasingly proving that being multilingual increases brain capacity when it comes to many other cognitive learning functions. India has already demonstrated that multiple languages can coexist and thrive in harmony.”
In other words, I Have Been There and Seen It All.
Now I would like to throw some light on the other aspects of major significance (and those were forcing me strongly of late to voice my opinion) Being a soft skills trainer myself, my job is to transform my students and trainees from ‘being eligible only’ to ‘being employable also.’ Now one could wonder how come Mr. Minister’s remark has anything to do with the employability issue of my students (read Indian youth). As an additional information, I would like to share that, luckily or unluckily, I belong to HR (Human Resource) domain. Recruitment & selection along with training & development have been two major areas of my work profile. As a recruiter, my job has revolved around interviewing tens of hundreds of job aspirants through campus placements, job fairs, job portals and walk-ins. In other words, I Have Been There and Seen It All. Now if I share my side of story, there is much more to talk about. And keeping the job fitness of an Indian youth in my mind, I would relate this issue with regard to ‘Communication and Soft Skills’ both. Let’s get started with some solid facts and figures,     
Do you know that India is facing an emergency
situation as far as employability is concerned?
Do you know that India is facing an emergency situation as far as employability is concerned? Our institutions annually produce around 2.3 million graduates, of which 90 per cent are considered unfit for employment. The country has over 350 universities, 18,000 colleges and 6,000 ITIs, which every year come out with about 500,000 technical graduates, of which, according to NASSCOM (The National Association of Software and Services Companies) estimates, 75 per cent are not easily employable. Experts say that a professional approach coupled with good communication skills (read Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization) is an important prerequisite of all technical and non technical sectors. David Graddol writes in 'English Next India : The Future of English in India (British Council, 2010)' that the three main drivers in India towards greater use of English are: education, as the demand for English-medium schools increases (this includes the incorporation of English training in vocational education); employment (many jobs, from BPO to retailing in the organised sector now require English-speaking skills); and social mobility (English is seen as an access route to the middle classes and geographical mobility within India and beyond). According to Pallab Bandyopadhyay, Director, HR of IT firm Citrix India, “Our engineers at all levels work in large virtual connected teams in the UK and the US. At the time of recruiting, we closely assess candidates on parameters such as presentation skills, emailing etiquette in addition to language skills.”

Today, corporate India is keen on hiring industry-ready graduates and has little time for on-the-job training. In today's world of cut-throat competition, academic expertise alone does not suffice; non-academic skills hold equal if not more weighting. Potential employers too, have become choosy, going for multiple interview rounds, group discussions and personal interviews. The industry today has become very choosy as compared to how it was, a few years back. In addition to asking for a good academic record throughout, companies use aptitude tests, multi-layered GDs, psychometric tests and so on, to evaluate candidates. In short, they want students who are industry-ready & job-fit with good domain knowledge, a balanced emotional condition and more importantly, good communication skills. Good communication is one of the major skills that companies look for. Then comes the overall personality of the student; s/he should be able to conduct himself/herself well in a professional environment. These figures could be Jaw-droppingly shocking to a student pursuing his/ her professional course, but sometimes it’s better to face a harsh truth rather living in a fool’s paradise. Let’s face it,

(i) Only 17% - Technical Professionals, 15% - Finance and Accounting professionals, 10% - Graduates from colleges and Universities are employable. (ii) While 80% fresher’s find it difficult to sustain their position when they enter into a new organization. (iii) And 60% of working professionals are not able to scale up in the current role.

As a matter of fact, India has a large employable
work force but only handfuls are employable.
As a matter of fact, industry bodies like FICCI, CII, and NASSCOM are routinely issuing reports about a majority of the country's graduates remaining unemployable usually because of poor soft skills. I know it’s a little difficult for not ending this blog post on a very happy note, still it seems crucial to showcase the reality. As they say, "Hurt Me With The Truth, Don't Comfort Me With A Lie." In fact, India has a large employable work force but only handfuls are employable. Why? They definitely require ‘Communication & Soft Skills’. If you don’t believe it, do not miss the upcoming blog post and get all your answers right there: 


Stay Tuned! 

If you like this blog post and wish to share your experiences/ remarks/ views on 'English & Employability'; you are most welcome. Write to me at pdpbygauravmisra@gmail.com. Like on facebook.com/PDP by Gaurav Misra. Follow on Twitter@pdpbygm.